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Open FinTech Forum 2019

In early December I flew to New York City for a couple days to attend my last conference of the year, the Open FinTech Forum put on by the Linux Foundation. It’s the second year of the event, and it was definitely on the small side, but with fintech being so entrenched in the mainframe world, it was a good place for me to be.

The event began with several keynotes that were generically open source with a financial slant. We had Jim Zemlin start things off by talking about the role of the Linux Foundation and touch upon topics that were of interest to companies in the financial sector. It was nice to hear from the GitLab CEO, Sid Sijbrandij, about using multiple cloud vendors (multi-cloud) and the importance of being able to move your applications without lock-in from specific vendors.

For such a small event, it was really nice to see several familiar faces. From a friend who I worked with in my Ubuntu days, to a few of my new IBM colleagues, and others from general open source work over the years. It was also great to sync up with John Mertic of the Linux Foundation and the Open Mainframe Project, even if I forgot half the things I had on my mind to talk to him about, haha! I guess that’s what email is for.

One of the talks I went to was by Gabriele Columbro of FINOS, the Fintech Open Source Foundation. I’m not sure what I think about the proliferation of open source foundations, but on the surface this organization had some interesting insights into the financial sector that I wasn’t familiar with. What I really enjoyed about the talk though was his walking through some of the news through the past decade. At the beginning of the decade there were articles about financial companies getting ahead by using in-house “secret sauce” technologies, and just a few years later the same publication would do an article about how they’re falling behind because they’re using an in-house solution and for not adopting open source technologies. As a long time open source enthusiast it’s nice for me to see financial companies joining so many other industries in embracing open source.

In an unfortunate scheduling change, my talk on “Modernizing Workloads with Linux on Your Mainframe” was at the same time as another mainframe talk by fellow IBMer Diana Henderson, The Future of Banking: Securing Digital Asset Custody Solutions. They were also put side-by-side in a large room separated by a curtain, which is probably my only complaint about this venue. It was a bit of a challenge to give a talk when the next talk over is just on the other side of the curtain. Still, we made it work and the venue had a nice street view of the holiday lights in the financial district!

My talk (slides) had an audience that was on the small side, but this was in line with attendance I saw event-wide. I suspect there were too many tracks for the number of attendees, and it seemed like a lot of folks used the event more for networking than for the actual sessions. Still, the audience I had was chatty and had the right background, they were mostly members of organizations that had mainframes, but they were Linux administrators and unfamiliar with that side of the tech stack. I enjoyed giving the talk, and afterwards I was talking to one of the attendees who gave me some valuable feedback: Java runs really fast on z/OS. I took his word for it, but when I got back to California I paid closer attention to this in some of the material we have, and yeah, if you want to run Java, it’s crazy fast on the mainframe. Good to know! During the break I also made sure to meet up with Diana sync up about our topics and get to know each other a little.

Photo courtesy of the Linux Foundation source

At the last session of the day I ran into a former OpenStack colleague whose name I recognized but I didn’t know very well. After chatting during the networking portion of the event, we grabbed dinner. I was happy for the company, particularly because I haven’t done a great job this year of arranging after-event social engagements. A goal for next year is definitely getting back on top of this and make sure I have a better balance of socialization and decompression time.

I wish I could have stayed longer to enjoy New York City, but with this being my last event for the year I was eager to get home to my family and the project work that I’d put on hold during the high travel portion of the year. Huge thanks to the Linux Foundation for rounding off my year with such a satisfying event, I look forward to participating again in the future.

More photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712383525001